You may have seen this Buddhist monk with over 300,000 Facebook followers. He divides opinion with his expensive robes, photos of himself jet setting on aeroplanes and name-brand items in the form of iPhones, iPads and an Idoky suitcase.
His name is Kakada Sophorn and his social media posts have earned him the moniker the “cute monk”.
“Do not use charity as business and take the money to travel abroad and show off branded materials. Do not post Apsara-like gestures while shopping. Charity is charity and do not forget Buddhist dharma,” wrote one Facebook user, criticising him for his seemingly lavish lifestyle.
However, the other half of Sophorn’s daily activity on Facebook tells a different story. You’ll see a monk who feeds the poor and cancer patients with various NGOs, also donating money to poor patients seeking treatment in hospital.
Ordained at a young age
Born into a middle-class family, Sophorn was first ordained at a very young age.
“I was ordained at about 10 or 11 years old and I do not think about quitting being a monk,” the 22-year-old, who now lives in the US, said.
With many Facebook users curious about where he gets his resources to do charity work and buy name-brand items, he says that the Four Requisites of Buddhist monks (clothing, food, shelter and medicine) are provided to him by Buddhist followers.
“When helping poor people and patients, I use some of my own money and some from donors. I am invited to chant the dharma and to help poor people. When I am provided with the Four Requisites people offer, I can help children because I don’t want to live with the wealth alone."
“I know many wealthy people who want to share their offerings. There are requisites that people give to me and sometimes they gift me some branded stuff when I travel abroad because they know what I need,” Sophorn said.
The monk attends various religious ceremonies in many countries, mostly events where he is invited to chant the dharma for Buddhist followers.
“I travel to attend various Buddhist events abroad, including in the US, France, Switzerland, Australia, Austria, Denmark, Morocco, China, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore,” he said.
In response to those who criticise him for his posts on social media, he said: “For the critics who flatter me by calling me ‘cute monk’, I have no idea about it. They can say what they want. Most importantly I know myself that I am good. We cannot satisfy all the millions of people.”
Today, the so-called “cute monk” aspires to create his own non-profit organisation to provide support to orphans.
“I really want to register a non-profit. I have a dream to build a huge care home for orphaned children and unsupported elderly people to live comfortably,” Sophorn said.
“If all the people involved work hard, our dream can succeed within ten years. I walk step-by-step because I think of elderly people who have no support and orphaned children who need food, homes and education.”
For those who want to contact Sophorn about his charitable work, he can be reached by telephone (087 313 246) or Facebook (@Kakada Sophorn).